The Haryana government on Thursday passed a bill to provide 75% reservation to local candidates applying to private sector jobs in the state that pay less than Rs 50,000 per month, PTI reported. The ordinance was one of the key promises made by the ruling alliance partner Jannayak Janta Party during the Assembly elections of 2019.

Once it becomes the law, the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020 will apply to companies, societies, trusts, limited liability partnership firms, partnership firms etc. located across the state.

The bill, tabled by Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, also contains a clause that allows companies to hire an outsider only if they are unable to find a suitable local candidate for a job profile, according to NDTV. But in such a scenario, they would first have to inform the government about their decision.

However, since this contravenes Article 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution – on equality before the law and the right to practice any profession anywhere in India – the bill needs the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind before it becomes law.

The bill also appoints a “designated officer” to act as a representative of the government who will rule on companies invoking the exemption clause citing lack of suitable candidates. This officer would be in the position to overrule the exemption claim by directing the company concerned to “train local candidates to achieve the desired skill, qualification or proficiency”.

“Every employer shall employ 75 per cent of the local candidates with respect to such posts where the gross monthly salary or wages are not more than Rs. 50,000 or as notified by the government, from time to time. Provided that the local candidates may be from any district of the State, but the employer may, at his option, restrict the employment of local candidates from any district to 10 per cent of the total number of local candidates”, the bill states, according to The Indian Express.

A designated portal shall be created on which local candidates and the employer will have to register and “no local candidate shall be eligible to avail the benefit unless he registers himself for the designated portal”, it added.

Opposition objects to the bill

The passage of the bill in the Assembly session on Thursday was opposed by the Opposition, and also a legislator of the Jannayak Janata Party, which is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government in the state. JJP MLA from Narnaund, Ram Kumar Gautam, called it a “ridiculous legislation” and “100% wrong”.

“You can make any number of laws,” Gautam told the House. “But the fact is that to harvest crops, even today we get people from Bihar and other states. Rather, people from Haryana spend six months in a year, protesting and destroying industry. Why do you want to make such laws? If any brother comes from any other state to work, how can you stop him?”

Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda objected to the clause that the industry shall have discretion to employ at least 10% of its employees per district.

He said the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, a government industrial body, does not give clearance to any industry unless they give an affidavit that it will employ people from Haryana. “How can another Bill be brought unless we remove that clause from HSIIDC?” he asked. “I strongly object to this 10% restriction… the government should make it overall 75% reservation, and remove the 10% per district clause,” he said.

But the Haryana government argued that given the “large number of migrants competing for low-paid jobs” and the subsequent “impact on local infrastructure and housing... and proliferation of slums”, preferences to local candidates will be “socially, economically and environmentally desirable”, according to NDTV.

Responding to Hooda’s objection, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said, “It is correct that such a clause exists in HSIIDC. It has been there during our six-year tenure too. But the fact is that it was not properly monitored during any government’s tenure because it was not a legislative clause. When we started monitoring it, we found that there is a need to make it a legislative clause. We need to protect the industry’s interests too.”